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PolitiFact.com | Tampa Bay Times
Sorting out the truth in politics

Whatever Obama's reason, they didn't meet

The statement

"President Obama decided not to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York."

Adam Hasner, Florida candidate for Congress

The ruling

The Mitt Romney campaign has repeatedly accused President Barack Obama of not being supportive enough of Israel. With world leaders meeting this week at the United Nations in New York, it criticized Obama for not meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Romney campaign released a statement from Hasner, the former Florida House majority leader running for a South Florida congressional seat.

"Now we know why President Obama decided not to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York next week: because the president has decided to 'block out any noise that's out there' about the threat a nuclear Iran would pose to Israel," Hasner said.

We found several stories — based on anonymous sources — that said Netanyahu's team asked for a meeting between the two leaders and was rejected. The White House responded on the record that the leaders couldn't meet due to scheduling conflicts.

The back-and forth started Sept. 11, when the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that the White House declined Israel's request for a meeting during the U.N. conference.

Reuters said White House National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor "denied that Netanyahu's request had been spurned, insisting instead that the two leaders were attending the General Assembly on different days and would not be in New York at the same time."

The brouhaha over the alleged snub led Obama and Netanyahu to speak for an hour by telephone on Sept. 11. The White House issued a statement that night saying, "Contrary to reports in the press, there was never a request for Prime Minister Netanyahu to meet with President Obama in Washington, nor was a request for a meeting ever denied." We'll note that statement didn't specifically address any request for a meeting in New York.

The next day, White House spokesman Jay Carney said this of an alleged snub: "The president will be in New York at the United Nations General Assembly early in that week; the prime minister does not arrive until later in that week. There was not logistically an opportunity for the two leaders to meet in New York. A meeting was never requested in Washington, therefore it could not have been denied."

We found many similar news reports from other news outlets. The New York Times, for example, reported that Netanyahu's office had requested a meeting sometime during the United Nations General Assembly, but that it wasn't possible due to scheduling. According to the article, the White House said that after "a possible New York encounter was ruled out, Mr. Netanyahu did not request a meeting in Washington" and that the scheduling conflict "had been conveyed to Israel long ago."

In response to questions from PolitiFact, Vietor emailed us: "Bottom line is that Obama is in New York Monday and Tuesday of this week. Netanyahu is here Thursday (and) Friday because of the holidays," he wrote, referring to Yom Kippur, which started Tuesday night and continues today. "In other words, they're not in the city at the same time, which makes having a meeting a logistical challenge."

So a meeting with Netanyahu didn't fit Obama's schedule. That's not quite refusal, but he is not meeting with Netanyahu in New York, so on some level he made the decision. We rate this Mostly True.

Whatever Obama's reason, they didn't meet 09/25/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 10:23pm]
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